Oaxaca, Mexico 2005
Oaxaca! Ahem: please make that "Wah-HAH-cah", with all -ah's sounding like "ah". Ahhhhhhh! Gracias! Okay, that's not so difficult, nothing that any Spanish-speaking person would have any trouble with. It's only us English-speakers, with our messed-up language, that tend to make stabs in every direction when it comes to pronunciation (and I love the English language, mind you.)
Is this my roundabout way of saying that it was amazing that only now I would be making up for a repeated omission to my travels? Perhaps. Indeed, I had been flying OVER Mexico many times to get to South America. Apparently such slights finally begged the question proper: why wasn't I flying TO Mexico? And Oaxaca in particular, one of the most noteworthy of its states?
Good question. Really, it was. It's not like Mexico isn't loaded with attractions from either a natural or historical point of view. It has one of the world's celebrated cuisines and warm weather, too. Obviously, the only answer was that I was an idiot. Problem solved! I mean, question answered!
Okay, well, I lied - summon the overpaid lawyers. I HAD been to Mexico before, and even Central America's Costa Rica. Each junket was for about 10 days, but mentally I saw them differently than my typical travels. They were "dedicated" trips, if of unholy, pedestrian orders.
The first had been unquestionably so, a boondoggle to sail a catamaran with friends in the Sea of Cortez. Staying not far off the Baja California peninsula, we only touched land at a few uninhabited islands. The trip also entailed spending a few days in La Paz, a quiet city not on the tourist track (then, anyway).
Contrastingly, in Costa Rica I spent most of my time landlubbing on coffee plantations. I had a role as translator for my friend Jim's business of importing fair trade, quality coffees. I kicked back with my horn or reading when I wasn't - which turned out to be most of the time. Still, I was in my friend's service at least nominally. This in theory meant that I couldn't run off anywhere. Since I'm all about theories, excepting the conspiratorial kind, there you go!
Hmmm - that last bit sounded like almost ALL of my vacations - where I'm ultimately focusing on horn playing and reading. I guess I'm really good at it! Anyway, throw in some food and conversation and - well, why not take my circus act to Oaxaca?
Indeed, why not? Here was a town with strong cultural traditions, a lengthy history (by western-western standards), a distinct cuisine focused on moles (a spicy sauce, pronounced "moh-lays", not the pesky rodents), and a southerly warmth and proximity to beaches. All of that should keep me kneehigh in comfort, I figured. SOLD!
Per the usual, I had at least one hotel reservation made before the trip began, covering a few nights upon my arrival. The rest, I knew, would play out as it always did. Frankly, however, this was an odd reservation for me. It was at a pension (Azucenas), something that would cost a bit more than I'd usually spend (like by double, but I start from an exceeding low place compared to most folks, so...).
They even had a number of froufrou touches, like a complete and included (non-continental) breakfast. Good god. They made beds; they put fresh flowers in my room and without. Egads! Such... pleasantness! More importantly, though, it was near the town center. THAT served to take care of any entry point qualms I had.
Timingwise, I did quite well, being barely in advance of Day Of The Dead (DOTD). The iconic, although slightly macabre, event of Mexico, DOTD pays respects to the ancestors of a family. This is done by and large by hanging out at the family gravesite, something that would seem about as opposite to British (and generally American) tradition as could be.
First though, and earlier in the day, came the parades. There was many señorita in fine garb, and genteel cowboys, too. There was much tossing of candy to kids. Band played in town squares; singers belted out the standards on bandstands. Fireworks, too, lots of fireworks. All of this I could bear to stand quite readily. I'm sure you'd agree it wasn't a bad racket, too - but you'd have to get off your hiney and mosey on down, y'hear? Como que no.
Anyway, DOTD indeed provided a handy backdrop to checking out Oaxaca. This would consist of doing my usual bumbling about through local museums and cafes, mostly. I'd run into a couple of parades, too, surprised and happy to imbibe the local mezcal. This devil's drink was freely handed to me by parade participants, each as proud as the next to share the liquid in broad daylight - and not a cop to care or say otherwise to get in between, either. Meanwhile, I might have held on to a piece of candy or two that fell into my lap, ones that no child dared to claim from the others dropped into the street. It's... possible.
With Oaxaca being a notably artsy town, I found it well worth my effort to circulate myself through the many galleries found in town. True enough, any number of them were particularly geared toward the tourist trade, but a considerable few were quiet and laidback, too. Those offered opportunities to speak with the artist in residence for a bit, or they could serve as a pleasant place to sit next to a fountain and read.
The artwork, meanwhile, was predominantly local and of good quality. I really liked that local focus, the avoiding of being bombarded with Van Gogh or Monet knockoffs. On the contrary, each gallery offered the possibility of a pleasant surprise. Okay, there might've been a Frida reproduction or twenty, sure, but overall I liked the jib of the thing.
The restaurant and cafe scenes in Oaxaca were strong as well, and with good reason. The former was primarily because there WAS a noted Oaxacan cuisine, one celebrated for its indigenous moles and more. The latter was probably only because tourism demanded it - and the large old town area could capably support it with an abundance of charming architecture.
With a mission-like mentality, I made it a point to try a few of the particularly standout mole places. I tried to take it another level, even, registering for a class on cooking. This, however, didn't pan out with my schedule (or admittedly the lack thereof). When the push invariably came to the shove, I didn't want to wait around indefinitely in the city, sitting around for that magical moment when there would be the necessary number of people signed up to make it a go. Here was the rare occasion where I wanted more tourists around.
A one day tour outside of the city was intriguing enough to snag my money, however loathe I typically was to find myself "on tour". But it could happen here and there, and for the good reasons of logistics and curiousity. Thus it was that a small group of us went out in a van to a few nearby towns. They consisted mostly of traditionally Zapotec people speaking, naturally, Zapotec (which has nothing to do with Spanish whatsover, rendering my so-called abilities of the tongue useless).
We even stuck our respective feet out in nature a bit. That would effectively round out the bill somewhat. For example, said tour - as advertised - produced in short order a massive tree of note (in the tiny town of Tule). This would be at least equaled in splendor, too, by some blurbling limestone. THAT created colorful hot spring pools, plus a "frozen" waterfall of solid rock. Were there ruins, too, of Mayan antiquity? Why yes, there were those, too.
Next up (or last, I forget the order) was an old-school, "micro" factory for making the potent mezcal. About time, damnit! The liquor was explained to also be derived from the agave plant - just like tequila. My sadly undiscerning tastebuds found it rather similar tasting. I kept the dread secret to myself. Far more importantly, mezcal was local to Oaxaca state and they were proud of it. I did my part in downing shots.
Finally, us half-dozen or so beleagured tourists were brought to a weaving factory demonstration, completing our mini-circuit of Oaxacan highlights. This was held in an oversized family home, complete with a shop that was prodigiously stuffed with carpets and other fabrics for sale. What a coincidence! Still, sarcasm aside, I wouldn't want to to say that the wares weren't beautiful and the work time-consuming: they were.
By this point of the day, though, we were all sufficiently cooked and ready to call it an outing. No one was complaining, but in sum the tour offered no surprises - which is something I guess tours pride themselves on. It did, however, unquestionably provide a relatively cheap day out into the countryside with some items of more than passing interest.
In town I would have numerous opportunities to buy more rugs if I so desired. There was no shortage of shops for the tourist trade in Oaxaca City. Or I could belly up for more mezcal - and this I desired. My tourism tends to come though my intestinal system in the end - sorry for the pun, but it was SO there!
For such tasking, numerous likker retailers could be found in the downtown area. I, however, opted instead for a bar that'd been around for something going on forever in Oaxaca. A Wild West Saloon-looking place, complete with swinging doors to the outside, led me to figure it was the real deal. (Alright, I'll fess up: my horribly dated - and eminently disposable -guidebook said so.)
My newest favorite haunt of one occasion didn't LOOK manufactured by Disney, at least. THAT was important, especially based on the fancy bars elsewhere in town, each seemingly owned by a different manufacturer with gift bottle sales in mind. Once inside, too, it was obvious that it was a place for serious drinkin'. It wasn't that I was a big drinker, but I DID believe in taking one for the home team should the occasion arise.
Fortunately it was the case that a couple of Frenchies - a brother and sister from a farm near Bordeaux - had the same idea. We each took a generous sampling of the wares, soon deciding that we were the best of friends as the afternoon wore on and the empty shot glasses piled up. Funny how that happens. If ever I was in Bordeaux, or they were in Seattle, etc.
Before leaving, we'd already married off various and sundry family members in growing conviviality. Certainly we could provide goats, cows, and a marital bed, too! Likely a prodigious burp followed in punctuation as the offers piled up. (Little did they know the danger. Regarding our proclivity of invitations, I have been known to follow up on such bold pronouncements - my fair reader has been suitably warned). Eventually, at a sudden and utterly random point I believe it was, we stumbled out the door into the remaining sunlight. What, it wasn't dark yet? And us already the best of friends? [I'd never see them again.]
Yes, evening was still to come, "indeedly do" as my man Ned would say ("The Simpsons", you cretin!). This was true even if my liver said it was already 4 a.m. So, like on all of my evenings spent in Oaxaca City, I was on the prowl for music.
Specifically, I wanted MARIACHI music. Yes, far away and northerly Guadalajara is Mariachiville, but it wasn't like the tradition wasn't followed all over the friggin' country. It was, which meant according to the dearest of mathematical principles that Oaxaca was no exception. Thus it was that in the Main Square (or Zocalo, or Plaza de Armas if you are of a South American persuasion) each evening, a brigade of mariachi groups made their rounds.
Stealthily I would make my way about the square, checking each little trio or quartet (or more) out. Over the course of several days I'd make a rather complete survey of them, too, separating the old jaded groups from the equally listless or energetic young ones. Any number of instrumental combinations seemed to suffice - two guitars, a guitar/bass/violin trio, two trumpets/guitar/mini bass - whatever. Sometimes there were singers - or none, too.
One group, with a stellar trumpet player, particularly grabbed my attention. Wow, what technique! Almost all - if not all - the instrumentalists were current or former students of the Music Conservatory, I'd eventually determine. That explained things, and this trumpeter proved no exception to the training. This fact was rapidly evident when I was exposed to his flurried and precise deliveries of parades of notes, all issued with flair. Mariachi music, in particular, prizes such qualities - I eagerly lapped it up.
Over several nights I engaged in conversation with this one mariachi grouping (even if the other members slightly changed each evening). I eventually got around to chatting with the trumpeter about - you'd never guess - trumpet stuff. We even exchanged tunes, a transaction made to my great delight.
For my part, I was surprised that he recognized all of the Bebop tunes I played heads (the written parts) for. I was not expecting jazz of that style to be known in Oaxaca, particularly to traditional-playing musicians. Wrongo, Tripman! Perhaps it was in sympathy to my blatted squackings, then, that he didn't play any of the tunes back to me. He undoubtedly would have done so at a far better quality, and interpretation, too.
Some other musicians DID show their jazz chops, however. The celebrations each night, held in the town's center, were all leading to the stories-tall effigy waiting to be burned in fireworked mayhem. Each seemed to always include bands provided from the conservatory. They'd play in the churches, outside in the square, marching around, wherever. These were larger groups than the mariachi units, but it was their constant playing which specifically amazed me. How were they not blowing their lips out? Then again, playing for hours in music school DID have such benefits as endurance.
After a few times of my checking them out, I realized they had noticed me as well, always slinking around with my trumpet slung on my back. Eventually, they sent out a boy to ask a couple of times if I wanted to play along with them. I, however, was admittedly daunted by what I had seen. I politely refused, unsure if in doing so they would think I was being humble or merely frightened in being school. For my part, I knew well: I wasn't ready to be the audience member in the front row of a comedy act.
I was content to listen, and they fortunately would let me well alone, more fortunately. The prospect of losing handily in some kind of trumpet duel (which seems a by-product of trumpeteering for some reason, probably because the horn typically attracts the extroverted) didn't find its realization.
Still, I knew I was a coward. But what else was new? I asked myself. I soon found a less conspicuous spot to listen within the crowd, obviating the need for such further soul-searching. From my crouched position now, beyond or behind the behemoths of largely-proportioned fellow crowd members, I could poke a crooked finger into the air: "Someday!..."
Oaxaca, Oaxaca, oh my Oaxaca! I know thee well, I now realized. Well enough, anyway. But there was more to the state than just the city, I knew. By this time I had seen the massive, burning firework mess that had been led up to for some days. I had had my fun running around in the large, festive crowds. But, such frivolity now accomplished in spades, the coast finally called.
Apparently it was calling long distance. By bus - or more accurately, communal van - it'd be a five-hour trek down treacherous mountain roads to the coast and Puerto Escondido. This was my new destination, the most-appointed of the Oaxacan beach towns. It was seemingly a good place to start my anticipated beach bumming, and bumming was a thing I knew I could do - no one even had to ask me!
I got right to work, then, surviving the ride down without throwing up - if not suffering a bit of claustrophobia in the jam-packed van. Puerto Escondido! Woo hoo! Goin' to P. E.! Actually, I had never heard of the place before thumbing through Oaxaca's pages in a guidebook. So be it.
Half of Italy apparently knew of the place, though, something quickly evidenced by their oddly enhanced visibility in the small town. A simple fact-finding inquiry filled in the details: the movie Puerto Escondido was an Italian production of some years before, shot on location. A... ha! It wasn't like the Italians were known as a well-traveled people, so it was comforting to have an answer.
I hadn't seen or heard of the movie, meanwhile, nor would I be able to even find it in town. [I'd later try unsuccessfully in Seattle, too.] Still, the town had its charms. Its main street offered good eats and a small artist stall market. You could walk to the main beach (Marinero), mere seconds from that drag, or head over to another one or two (much nicer, cleaner, quieter) in 20-30 minutes. Those would be reached through and over town to the north and west. I'd come to known them all well.
The main tourist beach, by reputation certainly, was a little further down to the south and east, at Zicatela. This was the one that gave the town its greatest notoriety, particular among the surfing set. It held world class competitions annually, offering wicked waves for generous portions of the year. At my date of arrival, it was already dangerous for swimming, too, with ample warnings posted. I soon learned that it would become more so in the weeks to come, with surfers to nevertheless grow in number to match the growth in the waves' amplitude and fury.
I was happy to still be on the front side of the season, however. This allowed me to wheel and deal with a hotel off both the main drag and the beach simultaneously, securing a spacious room for less than $20/night for a week. I could practice my trumpet on the beach and also have ample space to do lengthy yoga sessions in my room. Was this not perfection? Yes it was: I rejoiced in having and eating my cake on the down-low.
In between such undertakings, I researched the best fish taco in town and soon honed in on one restaurant's offering as THE place. That requirement to my investigations settled, I could then joyfully play tunes to the crashing waves to my heart's content. This may or may not have endeared me to the locals - although it seemed to - but it'd result in meeting a traveling character. THAT led to numerous - and always interesting -conversations.
A sometime trombone player from California, Mr. X was in the enviable process of checking out every beach on the Mexican coast from bottom to top. Not a bad gig. Unpaid, that is. He was doing it on the megacheap, staying generally on the beach or in shacks nearby for a song (i.e. $1-5), minus the singing.
Scruffy-looking would be generous in describing his appearance, and it wouldn't be long - by the second conversation or so - that he suggested I adopt the same persona visually. He liked my playing, he earnestly said, especially my offerings of the jazz variety, but he REALLY thought I should stop showering. For that matter, I should skip on shaving, or wearing clothes of any form suggesting cleanliness or good repair. In other words, I should properly look the part of a begging street musician.
Sigh. It wasn't like I didn't have idears of my own, personal norms regarding playing on the street. However, the idea - being a street musician - greatly appealed to me, coincidentally enough. But turning it into panhandling, per se? THAT didn't.
Still, it was good to have a fan, especially one forthcoming in compliments. Supposedly, too, he had a trombone back in his latest hut. We'd eventually play together, surely, something he suggested numerous times. Somehow, of course, that had a way of not happening even as I bumped into him repeatedly in a variety of locales.
My week's sumptuous residency at Puerto Escondido wrapped up in the meantime. With more tourists on the way, I was ready to move on to a quieter place in any case. I wanted a place at a sub-town level, my new goal. I yearned for the ephemeral beach village of yore, a scattering of huts and a gorgeous strand. Fortunately that was what the Oaxacan Coast excelled in.
It was thus quite shortly that I was on a (screamingly local, from its state of disrepair to music blaring) bus to Mazunte. Now THIS was precisely what I had been looking forward to, I told myself as I hopped off the bus at the side of the rode in what passed for Mazunte town. I ambled on foot from the "highway", making my way down the dusty road toward the beach.
At a fork in the road I made tracks to a kind of hostel place I had heard about. Supposedly it was attractively perched on a cliff overlooking the beach - and it was. I soon met the young French couple which ran the place in the most laidback of fashions. Welcome!, they said - and apparently meant.
I was next ensconced in a mattress-laden cubby, one framed by a partially-enclosed network of palm branches woven together and facing the sea. This looked... perfect. Moreover, I could upgrade to a building - one with a door capable of taking on a padlock - later as occupants left, I was informed. The sky did indeed rain gold, did it not? I smiled to myself.
The lack of security in the palm-thatched lean-to didn't seem to matter. In very short order I knew all of the inhabitants of the place, enough so to feel sufficiently safe and secure to not worry about my humble belongings beyond my trumpet. That was usually how it was with me, anyway.
In the meantime, I realized that I would be able to speak French in addition to Spanish. It wasn't long before I'd learn that the meals, consisting primarily of seafood from the kitchen, would not be lacking in taste, either. This was as one might come to expect from the cooking of a artistic Frenchwoman.
I settled into the appealing rhythm of Mazunte in no time, ultimately passing altogether a week plus in its charming arms. A cafe restaurant or two, back down the hill and toward "town", were of good quality and variety at low cost. What more could I ask for? Nothing, no nothing at all.
The beach, meanwhile, was found a petite cove. It came complete with waves that begged for bodysurfing to my heart's content, something of which my heart had no idea of boundaries. I plied myself earnestly to that trade over the days, an idyllic existence realized.
Okay, not all was PURRfect - the heat was a bit stifling at times, this was true. But this was the season of change toward the Oaxacan winter, so breezes were starting to make their way our way as the days moved on. I could always trek down the hill to the water for a dip at any time, anyway. Midnight was as good a time as dawn. Furthermore, no distractions meant no concept of a clock either. What was dawn? Who was this midnight?
There weren't that many folks around in any direction from the hostel, but I quickly befriended the owners of the place in lieu of such. They were hosting some longterm residents from France and Quebec, meanwhile, all fortunately eager to join me in conversation as well. Happily this was all accomplished in French, a skill I was conveniently working on at the time.
I was bit more wary, though, of the three Frenchmen who walked around on high, spring-loaded stilts most of the time. They, too, would make for merry company - but only in the rare moments when we could see each other (physically) eye to eye. Usually, instead, I only caught a glance of their dust-risen trail as they bounced away, kangaroo-like. I'd return immediately to my usual suspects - the trumpet, reading, beaching - the chosen, proper equation for my desired result.
Some other items of interest proved of some distraction in the area as well. San Augustanillo was the next town down the way, with its own cove and a handful of restaurants. It even provided the lone internet connection for the area. That is, it did for the one time I dared disrupt the gaming of the local schoolchildren who had the run of the place.
A former turtle processing plant on the coast was good for clamboring about; so were the turtle nesting grounds, plus the scientific facility adjacent to them I explored one day, too. Beyond those, Puerto Angel made for a nice day trip. There I went snorkeling in a little tour put together for a few us by our host. A pretty good gig this was!
I was pretty content... and then T came along. My antennae perked up immediately. Teutonic bombshell would be an apt, if ad hoc description of her; it didn't hurt that she was the first thing I saw smiling when I came out of the water one day. She had already befriended H from Britain a few days prior; now she'd be stuck with me, too.
A journalist hailing from Hamburg, she was making her way to Juchitan, a Oaxacan town of some 100,000 souls off of the tourist track. She had made some contacts there from abroad - and via Mexico City as well - to pursue some scattered ideas she had. Those wild hairs were hoped to form a story concerning boys who cross-dressed. Well, okay - sure... in Mexico? THAT was a little different, indeed, in a traditional-bound country - but it didn't exactly arise much initial interest on my part.
This was not to be merely a yarn about liking to wear women's clothing, however: it appeared that the boys wore the ages-old clothes of yesteryear. These were still exemplified by their mothers' current attire, and this was to be the kicker: it was done in an oddly matriarchal society - for typically patriarchal Latin America. That sounded different, I agreed.
More realistically, it was more like "Hmmm - anything you want, T!" The good news for me, which I soon learned as I followed her about slobberingly, was that T didn't speak Spanish. Translator - want one of those? Like - me? Yes, I could offer that, and willingly. I felt lucky to have something to offer, an "in" to T's graces.
On such simple things the world does turn round. Yes, it does. So it was that the vague plans I had been making, of going toward Palenque's jungly ruins and the Yuchitan Peninsula beyond, went kaputt. They started looking for shelf space on a receding back burner. Juchitan suddenly sounded like a very promising, CULTURAL adventure. Uh... yep.
Fortunately, for the near term, T's plans to head further down the coast -from Mazunte to Zipolite - dovetailed perfectly with my own. I offered to help her out when she moved on to her story as a matter of course, gentleman that I was, and to this she happily accepted. I could be nothing if not helpful, no?
Here, then, I had yet another detour in finely laid (okay, admittedly almost nonexistent) plans - ones heretofore elegantly etched... in pencil. Oh well, this was something which seemed to happen every year for me. Why break with tradition?
I thought about the import of such a jerking of the rudder, my ship listing now dangerously to starboard. Yes, conversation had up until this point been very fun and engaging, indeed. NOW all that stood in the way of envisioned bliss was the slight detail of a boyfriend, one of nine years hailing from Australia... but currently residing far, far away in Berlin. Details.
H, meanwhile, still made us a trio. She was making plans for going on to Palenque par coincidence, c'est vrai, but first we'd all have a few days in Zipolite before parting ways. This sounded fun, especially with such company - and this was a place to properly enjoy ourselves, too.
Zippo was famous mostly for its hippy vibe - and of the bounteous offerings of lowkey places to stay on its large beach. Nude bathing and kind waves didn't hurt that billing, certainly. Anyway, that was all we took it for, and gratefully so. Accordingly, I don't remember anything beyond eating with my new friends, sleeping (all too alone!), playing my horn on some rocks with biting sandflies, and splashing about the ocean. Zipolite delivered, in other words.
When the appointed hour came to go our separate ways, I hopped and skipped alongside T to our bus. To Juchitan! Wherever that is! See ya, H! Yes, off we went and, although it was several hours of travel by the most meager of buses, including an exchange of vehicles or two, the time flew by.
By the time of our arrival in Juchitan, I had rigged a sophisticated system of a drool cup to my chin and chest. With luck, I figured, that would render my new tic less obvious - even as T must have noticed and appreciated it. Surely. The wet trail of droplets I was leaving behind was becoming conspicuous.
T's contacts in J-Town, meanwhile, quickly proved excellent. We had a first night at a motel on the town's outskirts, but that was only because we arrived toward evening. It was within moments after arriving at the marketplace the next day that we had keys to a house to stay in. It belonged to T's contact in Mexico City, but there was no one there for the time being. I wasn't complaining.
The house lay all of a couple of blocks from the town's main square and, as a result, near the main market. That worked. Our new lodgings of an ancient colonial residence were otherwise rather empty, however, but some massive hookrings embedded in the interior's thick walls were all we needed to string up some hammocks. That's precisely what they were there for, and had been so for some hundreds of years. That'd work, too.
Overall, the place was old through and through, centered or perhaps "curled" onto a traditional courtyard. It was tiled heavily, too, in a combination of traditional Mexican tiles that would sell for a pretty penny back home. That is, they would if they weren't simply looking good where they were in the interim. They did.
We settled in quickly, just as rapidly settling into a routine of sorts - T DID have a story to write, after all. Anyway, the house had a sufficiently-appointed kitchen to cook in, meaning lunch and dinner could be made with the luxury of not worrying about someone else needing to get to the stove (as at a hostel). We immediately agreed on a fine restaurant for a daily breakfast and coffee, too, located in a traditional colonial building on the main square.
The other part of the agenda - outside of food - was to work on the article. Oh yeah! T's contact soon provided more dividends for that, fortunately, finding us speaking with the woman in charge of the market about the cross-dressing boys. Over the next week or two she'd help us get into contact with a number of boys and other cultural contacts. Hopefully between all of them this would allow T to put a story together.
Among other things, however, the most important discovery made was that the original story concept was a red herring. The boys cross-dressed, indeed, but it didn't take long to realize that they were content to copy the fashions of the day. Their mothers were protective of them, sure, but probably no more so than in any other family where the child turns out to have interests that lay out of the mainstream and lead to others making fun of them. Well, there went THAT grand idea!
There'd be more surprises. Beyond the clothing tastes of the boys, the matriarchal society was found to not exactly be true, either. Instead, it was the case that the women of Juchitan were seen more as equals in their matrimonial partnerships than elsewhere in Mexico - or the rest of Latin America, for that matter.
In Juchitan, they just notable for ruling the roost and the purse of the market. They "allowed" the men to only bring in the goods to market, but not to otherwise step foot within the walls of the place - or mix with the pricing or the eventual exchange/warehousing of the money later. The women DID have greater power than usual here.
Yet men still ruled the politics in Juchitan, just like in the rest of Mexico. Here was just a case where the woman had an extended, or equal, role. Thus an intriguing story of a woman-dominated society devolved into something only somewhere between modern-day Mexico and Western European society. This was progress of sorts to the Western mind, yes, but nothing earthshaking or overwhelmingly novel. Did it still make a story? That was for T to determine.
This evidence took a bit to accumulate, however, so it was not for naught that we went through our motions. There were some cultural meetings we listened in on, plus a meeting with a local historian served of interest. Near the end of our stay was a celebration of local culture as well, including a parade and party of cross-dressing men. These were the ones who DID dress up in traditional female dress, collectively calling themselves Las Mujeres Interpidas (intrepid women). Aha - therein probably lay the seed's germination.
In the meantime I had T to myself to work my charms. Flush with crush I tried mightily, making some progress at least in her heart if not her arms. But nine years and a committed relationship had its weight, and all teasing and weaseling into T's hammock would come to nothing beyond a playful and open game for her favor. All's fair in love and war - and so it was in resignation, only admitted by the end of our stay, that I found the following true: sometimes you can win the love - if not the war.
Interviews complete and plenty of grist for the mill, T and I decided to return to Oaxaca. There we'd go our separate ways, our tickets already punched for return flights. We made our way to the resort town of Huatatelco midway back first, though. We'd need to spend a night there per bus schedules, and that would turn out to be more than enough. What a disappointment - its beautiful location couldn't stand up to its reduction to yet another condo-homogenized beach found in a tropical climate. Yecch. We were happy to be on our way in a day.
We next took a van to return to Oaxaca City. This time my luck didn't hold up as previously. The nose - and my well-being - would be made to suffer, things I realized even as I offered my assigned seat up front to T and relegated myself to the stuffy rear. Even as my memory of the trip down to the coast was still vivid enough, chivalry was not yet sufficiently dead even if opportunity was. Sigh.
Soon enough I had my reward, too, as not one but two of my nearby co-passengers were subjected most negatively to the swerving whims of the vehicle. It was only with the greatest of intestinal fortitude that I managed to not get caught up in barfing alongside them in response to their own bodies' reactions. The van couldn't get to Oaxaca soon enough.
But it did get there, of course. By then, only a day remained for me in Oaxaca; T would also be returning to Germany shortly. Sigh - and here we had just said hello, no? Indeed. We spent a pleasant day in town regardless, sharing bites to eat and final stories.
We even had good digs, in a hostel that I had found previously. It was clean and central to the town, if not a bit institutionally sterile. It seemed often the case that former schools, convents, and hospitals turned hostel. Here was another one. A final night led to a final morning, however, and then it was time for me to be off.
Another good trip, and a new friend had been made. Not bad by any measure, even if we'd only keep in sporadic touch afterward (she would eventually break up heartbroken from her Aussie boyfriend, finding new love - in New York, of all places! - and a baby afterward). T alone made the trip a success, but beyond that I had gotten a fair taste of Mexico and its beauty in the form of nature, culture, and cuisine.
Yep, Oaxaca had suited me more than well enough. More than passably pleased, I concluded one thing: I'd be back.
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